Recently a friend went to the island of Lanai for a day with her family. It’s been on her bucket list for a while, and lucky you, she told me all about it AND shared some photos!
Where is Lanai?
Lanai is one of the four islands that make up Maui County – there is Maui proper (the main island where the condos are located) and the islands of Molokai (population 7300), Lanai (population 3200) and Kaho’olawe (unpopulated). Billionaire Larry Ellison (co-founder of Oracle) owns 98% of the island – yes this means large portions of the island are not accessible to the public. Lanai’s residents live in Lanai City at the top of the island.
There are 30 miles of paved roads (370 miles unpaved), no traffic lights, two Four Seasons Hotels, a golf course, few rental cars and…. a ferry. There is one all purpose store, one coffee shop, a movie theatre, a school, an Olympic-sized community pool…. it is pretty small town and very laid back. Interestingly, despite the small population their high school students are very competitive in intramural football and basketball.
How to and what to do?
The walk-on ferry goes several times a day from Lahaina. My friend drove to Lahaina early morning, parked in public parking near the harbor and got on the boat (no you can’t take your car). She had rented a small car privately from 808 Day Trip which worked well for her. When she arrived by ferry, the car was waiting for her at the ferry terminal. Note, one of the rental car stipuations is no driving on unpaved roads which was limiting. The car rental, pick up, drop off was all as promised, and the security deposit refunded promptly.
There is a great beach within walking distance of the ferry, however with the big swell late July the beach was temporarily closed. At this time you can only access the Four Seasons if you are a paying guest. There is a second Four Seasons near the top of the island.
If you don’t have a rental car, there are apparently some taxis to get you where you need to go.
My friend’s favorites from their daytrip are:
- Shipwreck Beach
- Sweetheart Rock
- Lanai Cat Sanctuary – yes, this is actually a thing, surprisingly the #2 most popular thing to see on Lanai according to Tripadvisor.
- enjoying the laid back lifestyle on the island.
A little about Lanai
The island is an extinct shield volcano (Lanai Hale) and the 6th largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Originally there were a few small fishing villages and the island was mainly used for cattle grazing. Apparently the Mormon church tried unsuccessfully to form a colony here.
In the 1920s the Dole family purchased 98% of the island which then became home to the at the time largest pineapple plantation in the US. The plantation built the principal settlements of Lanai City to house their workers. In the 1980s Castle and Cook (Rupert Murdoch) bought the plantation and built two resorts and a golf course. They stopped growing pineapples in the 1990s. Larry Ellison (cofounder of Oracle) purchased the 98% in 2012. According to the internet Larry Ellison has plans to transform the island into a health and wellness ‘utopia’ completely powered by renewable energy. He lives on the island full-time. Since the island is so laid back, it is a popular vacation destination for celebrities looking for privacy.
Pre-Covid Lanai participated in Maui County’s Friday Town Parties, taking the Fifth Friday spot. Kihei (4th Friday) and Lahaina (2nd Friday) have re-started their parties, hopefully the others including Lanai will restart soon also.
The island has a shipping port (Kaumalapau Harbor), a small boat harbor/ferry terminal (Manele Small Boat Harbor) and a small airport.